This gallery contains 78 photos.
Racer Category; Expert
Location; Merrimack NH
Race Team: NEMBA Racing
Unlike many racer folk that race for a shop or club. We NEMBA racers race for…. well….to race. Sure we do our fair share to promote the organization and construction of sustainable trails as well, but that just comes with the love for the sport. No fancy shop name in fact no sponsor names at all. One thing we know is that we love dirt. We love the woods. We also love to build trails.
It’s been a few months since I did an entry. Some of you may have thought I gave up the race scene. That’s far from the story though. Those of you with little ones at home know that This time of year means back to school, sports, homework, club activity, birthday parties, and parent teacher meetings. Throw in a large home construction project and something just has to give. So with less focus on racing, there has to be something for me to pass the time.
So I’ve been digging in the dirt a bit earlier than in past year and more frequent as well. As a matter of fact within the last 3 years, Merrimack has seen numerous trail improvements and a large expansion of its network. Six new trails since 2010 and we’re not even close to complete. Outer Ledges, Twister, Fat Cat, Pipeline, Greens Pond, and Blodget Hill Bypass. No longer do we ride our private stock, well maybe a little private stock. The word is out, and riders as far as Portsmouth NH have made the trek to check out our handy work. With the white stuff coming we’ve got yet more scheduled to build.
Here’s some of the images of what we’ve been up to.
I’ve just about had it this year with these things. Seems like a wetter than average year has sent these things into a baby boom not seen in years.
Deer flies (also known as yellow flies, or stouts in Atlantic Canada) are flies in the genus Chrysops of the family Tabanidae that can bepests to cattle, horses, and humans. A distinguishing characteristic of a deer fly is patterned gold or green eyes.
Deer flies are a genus that belongs to the family commonly called horse-flies (Tabanidae). They are smaller than wasps, and they have coloured eyes and dark bands across their wings. While female deer flies feed on blood, males instead collect pollen. When feeding, females use knife-like mandibles and maxillae to make a cross-shaped incision and then lap up the blood. Their bite can be extremely painful, and allergic reaction from the saliva of the fly can result in further discomfort and health concerns. Pain and itch are the most common symptoms, but more significant allergic reactions can develop.
They are often found in damp environments, such as wetlands or forests. They lay clusters of shiny black eggs on the leaves of small plants by water. The aquatic larvae feed on small insects and pupate in the mud at the edge of the water. Adults are potential vectors of tularemia, anthrax and loa loa filariasis.
These Tred-Not patches work pretty well. They’re about a buck a piece and you can probably get a couple uses out of them. I’m not 100% sold on being a human fly trap though. They peel off pretty easy and don’t leave a sticky residue. I certainly see more road miles in the near future for sure.
This makes year four in a row for me racing the Pinnacle. It’s what I would consider a “classic” mountain bike race. That is, all aspects of rider ability is tested. Endurance, climbing, and downhill bike handling skills. The loop is approximately 6 miles and consists of 3 large climbs, followed by a brief downhill followed by a small uphill traverse before a longer more sustained downhill section. Large berms await you followed by the Pinnacle Plunge which takes you back to the start finish where you’ll get to do it twice more.
Fitness this year has been good for me and unlike last year I haven’t burned out with over-training. The new Scalpel has over 400 miles on her now and is serving a purpose.
Course conditions were wetter than in prior years. Good for me, as I usually do well in adverse conditions. There’s always concerns though. For a few weeks now, I’ve expressed concerns on the skinny Racing Ralph’s. I’m running them tubeless and they are aired up on the Reynolds carbon hoops. Due to the lower volume I’ve dared not run them less than 25 psi. This race would be no different.
Not only is the Scalpel the quickest handling bike I’ve owned since my old Klein Attitude back in 99. It’s also the most air pressure run in my tires since Summer of 09 when I ran little wheels, tubes, and big travel. Over the last three seasons racing 22 psi and 2.3″ tires have been mainly the race tire of choice.
They lined us up Vet I and Seniors. My guess was 20 riders in all with no real way of knowing who was in your group. Other than Carl there wasn’t one other familiar face in the crowd. Immediately there is a crash on the dry grass. I knew better and was off to the left. Whole shots in mountain bike races with this much climbing are overrated. Especially on this start where you just climb. Flat field sprint, into the woods, false flat pavement, to false flat double track to a punch in the face.
I felt ok out of the gate in the initial first few minutes as the line began to form. Single file with a few stragglers out off the side doing their own thing. The large climb on lap one had me 20 seconds off the leaders at the top. No problem, I thought, I’ll make up some of those seconds on the down hill sections. It was wet and muddy on the way up. Lots of extra energy due to rear wheel slippage and front root deflection. On the first downhill the course would show me how slippery it was. There is a small open rock face on a slight left hander. First time through I nearly bit it into the tree just beyond. Further down on the second down, I lost it and went off course. I saved the fall and got right back on.
As each lap ends a new one begins. Each one a little slower and a little more tired. The more fatigue the more mistakes would come. Still, on the water tower turn I could see the JRA jersey Carl Devincent (2nd place) Just ahead. I was feeling good, maybe I was reeling the leaders back? More dabs in the darkness. It was dark in some sections. I wrestled with maybe taking off my dark sunglasses a few times. Looking back I probably should have. I would follow a single speed guy for the entire down hill on lap II. He was going just fine and I had no desire to risk a pass.
At the start of lap three I grab my last gel and some additional hydration. Unknowingly running in fourth and just out of podium range. Matt chandler came from nowhere and passed me on the first punchy climb just after the start finish. I tried to stay with him but even on the flat sections I was slipping and sliding. More suffering would ensue on the final climb and towards the top the top Vet II’s caught me. On the final descent and in a line of 4 or 5 guys on the first downhill I went down. My first hard crash in many races. I got up got back on the bike, chain was dropped , and left lever was spun all the way around and was now facing me.
In the end all I could muster was a 6th place finish. I was really hoping for a podium. My legs have been so good for me so far this year and I’ve been climbing fairly well. Upon closer look my times were comparable to last year when the conditions were a little warmer but dry.
Sunday I didn’t fair so well on the technical descents and wet exposed roots. I suffered my first crash of the season. One thing that everyone will tell you is that these bikes are made to climb. It felt at times like absolute amateur hour on the descents. Modifications are a coming.
Holy smokes a mountain bike race on Saturday! Finally, a race falls on Mother’s day weekend forcing the race God’s to schedule a Saturday Race. So whats wrong with Sunday races? How about the big let down of the usual long drive home only to have to get up and head to the office the next day. You know you’ve all felt the same way.
Ah the month of May, a month where the weather can be unpredictable. It’s also the month of one of the largest mountain bike races in the Northeast. For me, this was my fourth year in a row racing this event and third year in Expert. It’s only an hour away and the trails are always super fun and have great flow. Also, don’t expect the same course ever. It changes every year. Distance and direction changes to keep you on your toes.
If you’re partaking in the points series, I should also note this is a race where points are at a premium. Do well here and steal some tough points and you’ve got yourself a decent head start on the series on your rivals. The best 7 of 9 points totals from your races are counted towards the overall.
I drove in with my fellow large legged buddy and NEMBA Racing teammate Andrew Schnellinger. (Yes, the rubbing on his new S-Works stays are from his legs.) I know it sounds ridiculous, but true. Andrew and I live only about a mile or so from each other so we’ve been building and riding the local trail network all season. The mood during the drive over to Ipswich MA wasn’t too upbeat. Neither of us had much in the lines of expectations. Of course I’ve heard that from him before. I took him down to the Burlingame mountain bike TT in April and he crushed it with an elite like result. So I was expecting the same at the Willow.
As far as my expectations for the day? I could have flipped a coin. 15 pre registered and one day of registrant. Non familiar names, with the exception of that DeVincent guy, this was not last years race. Vet II stole a few, Colorado took another, Elite took a couple more. Course was being run in reverse, same as 2011, which was a detractor for me. Weather was in my favor, conditions were perfect. Even a few drops of rain fell while we were out on course, bonus! I had my new Scalpel, and no expectations for the day. During my warm up I found myself talking to myself. So, whats it going to be today? Good legs? Bad?
The starting line. Maybe the only good thing about Expert Vet I is the start. We don’t get 25 guys lining up at the start blowing themselves up for the top 5 into the woods. You can keep track of the boys that are out in front fairly easily. As we moved up for the start I said to Carl, check it out, I’ve got the sweet hard pack single track ribbon under my wheel. He then proceeded to move up to the front row and move me out of the way. Now I was on field grass with corn stalks that rip derailleurs off bikes. Thanks man.
So we’re off, a fairly long stretch of double track meets us and continues for about a mile. Zero to 22 miles an hour out of the start. Careful drafting would ensue for that mile. Carl and Andrew were around fourth and fifth wheel as I sat around tenth position into the first single track section. To my surprise the group was all together but you could see a small fraction from time to time starting to form with the rider in 6th position. I could still see the leaders at all times.
I wasn’t feeling terribly taxed coming out of that first section and most of the group was still intact. Maybe 12 of 16 still in the mix. I wanted to get to the front before the next section of ribbon. I threw down a hard acceleration on a small incline moving around about four gents and pulled even with Andrew. How you feeling man? I got back something like “not great” not great and hanging in fourth. Not bad I thought. I pulled even with Carl just after and asked him how he was feeling? “Actually, I feel pretty good” he says. As we continue up the incline I feel the speed increase a bit and with Carl just off to my left shoulder I take a glimpse out the back. I yell four. Carl confirms “Four with a couple of stragglers”. He’s always so detailed.
Continuing on the fire road section and Carl yells out sharp left to show he still has feelings for his old NEMBA Racing mate as we enter the second section of single track. At this point I was third wheel and feeling decent. Wait a minute? What was that in front of me? To my astonishment there was a guy on a 26er hard tail! As we all have known for years now in the New England 26″ bikes are all but extinct, and probably should be outlawed for use due to the dangers they create during the races. Anyway this would not last long as his inferior contact patch would wash out on a downhill sweeping right turn burping his tire and sending him for a ride into the tick infested New England brush. In the process though the 2nd place rider also had to take evasive action and pull off course to avoid the same fate.
Well, just like with NASCAR avoiding the crashes and keeping your ride intact is half the race. I found myself in first position with Carl on my wheel. Together again, only this time he didn’t pass. We continued at a fairly brisk pace and I believe got separation from any remaining riders. Plenty more single track would follow and I just kept the pedals turning waiting for the only climb on the course. I knew what climb it was but was unaware where it was. It was the same climb from 2011 which I hated. Carl was not far back when he let me know that it was coming up. Left Turn and the climb starts shortly after. The climb was punchy at the beginning, but survivable to the top. Carl would be back on my wheel.
During a quick up into a loose marbles sharp lefty. Carl took an outside line and decided he wanted to get off his bike. Maybe his only mistake of the day? I asked if he was ok and he said yes so I continued on, fully expecting to see him grab my wheel on the next double track. I think that was the last time I would see him.
I rode the rest of the race passing the remnants of the earlier fields and somewhere mid lap two I would pass teammate Mark Tucker who took 4th on the day in the single speed division.
My day was not done though. With about two miles to go and not long after passing Mark, my lack of road miles this year started to show. Endurance I thought was suspect heading into the day and that would certainly come to fruition. My right inner quad was cramping. I was sitting in first as nobody had passed me. I found myself trying to work through it. Shift up, shift down. Nope, still not helping. Only thing I could do was let up on the gas. Tank was about empty anyway. Just prior to the final punchy little climb I could see out of the corner of my eye another rider. As he passed, I didn’t recognize him. I couldn’t follow, just watched. He was going pretty good. As we hit the last fire road I watched him disappear. I crossed the line with the suspension locked (so I could pedal standing up like on my single speed) so my quad wouldn’t cramp 2nd place on the day and with the 4th best time in Expert overall. Results here
Who was that guy that caught me? Alexandre Frappier, a three-time Quebec Cup Masters Champion and currently races on the Opus national Cross-Country team.
The month of March saw a reduction of the bike fleet from 6 to just 3. The stable was feeling a bit empty . With race season heating up something had to give. No Superfly 100′s available till July, no Epics available till June.
The odometer just hit 1k since the start of the year. Every single dirt mile has been done up to now on my awesome El Mariachi Rigid single speed. Maybe I’ll just be known as one of those crazy single speed guys. Screw gears and all that technology.
I’ve been thinking for some time now that a bike fleet should be as diverse as possible. Road bike, Cross bike, Rigid Single Speed, Geared suspended Mountain bike, and a fat bike. That covers just about everything but dirt jumping, BMX and large gravity applications.
So with the proceeds of the bike sales and a little extra I ended up with this. 2013 Cannondale Scalpel 1 Carbon. Special thanks to the folks at Riverside Cycles in Newburyport, who hooked me up. This is a professional shop that knows their stuff. Bike came fully loaded with Sram XO, Carbon Lefty, and the XX rear shock. Both the front and rear have remote hydraulic lock outs.
Lots of money buys you a lot of plastic. Frame, Fork (is the Lefty a fork), wheels, crank, handlebar, and the other little pieces. I ended up opting for the alternate color that isn’t advertised on the Cannondale site.
So, the bike is a medium weight at the shop came in around 22 lbs without pedals. This is about 5 lbs less than my 2010 Gary Fisher Hi-Fi Pro with XT/XO build with Crests. Pretty impressive I thought.
First impressions; With about 80 miles on the drivetrain I can honestly say this bike is built for one thing. Going fast! The carbon hoops accelerate faster than any mountain wheel set I’ve owned. The wheels also come with the Reynolds Assurance program, a 2 year warranty which was an added bonus for sure. Bike is full XO as well. For the last four years strictly by chance the bikes I’ve purchased have all come standard with SRAM. There’s much debate about SRAM vs Shimano. I don’t really care. I just ride the bike. I haven’t had a problem with anything component related. The Lock out feature for the front and rear shock works great for any sustained climbs or if you’ve got a strip of pavement and you don’t want that pedal induced bob. The new Lefty fork just works. The folks at Cannondale have had plenty of time to perfect the design. Some people have commented that it feels weird when looking down. I don’t even notice it, it doesn’t feel weird or anything to me. It is smooth though, the needle bearings it slides on probably has something to do with that.
The one item that I will say certainly makes a difference is tires. The bike comes with Racing Ralph Evo tires. I’m running them at about 25 psi. not that much more than other race tires I’ve used in the past. There is noticeable tire wash out when cornering hard. Most likely, this is due to me needing to find the center of the bike when hard cornering and getting used to the tires. It’s been since late September that I’ve ridden a fully suspended bike or a bike with gears so I figure I’ll need to give it a little more time to dial myself in.
Spring has sprung. Or at least in RI there is no snow and the sun was out. It was still cold however trying to warm up at 8:30. At 9:00 the Elite/Experts began to congregate at the start line. Timing chips for 2013! It’s about time. Last year we all stood around shivering wondering where we fell out.
The 2013 course was the same as 2012. Tech followed by flats and steady climbing. Last year I felt a heck of a lot better in the first couple of miles. Not so much this year, more mud and water this year. Quick rock outcroppings were tough. I ran most of them last year since its tough to crank up and over while on the single gear. I did the same this year. The flats were where I felt I lost most of my time to the geared folks so I opted for the 19t cog this time around.
In last years race I started back in the pack due to having no prior results. I did fairly well, so this year out of all the returning boys I was going 4th at the start. That meant fast dudes up in front and pressure from behind. I was bouncing off rocks like a pinball in the early sections. Easy catch for some of the fast guys starting just behind. Missing a turn just before exiting the first tech section didn’t help either! The sad part was that I remember seeing the arrow and as I went past couldn’t remember which way it pointed.
Towards the end of the race I look down to see me at 38 minutes and what I thought was close to the end of the race and at the final turn before hitting all the last bridges section a volunteer says only four more minutes. What! I thought to myself? Am I that much slower than last year?
As I crank the final corner I see the finish stand and sprint. As you see below not the best time but I think all of the times were 3-4 minutes slower on average. At least I made the picture cut just above The Big Apple.